Sanctuary by Pauline Creeden
In a heart-racing thriller described as Falling Skies meets The Walking Dead, Jennie struggles to find a safe place for what’s left of her family. But it seems as though there is no place sacred, no place secure. First the aliens attacked the sun, making it dimmer, weaker, and half what it used to be. Then they attacked the water supply, killing one-third of Earth’s population with a bitter contaminate. And when they unleash a new terror on humankind, the victims will wish for death, but will not find it…
When the world shatters to pieces around her, will Jennie find the strength she needs to keep going?
Sanctuary caught and kept my attention because of the unusual way Creeden incorporates elements from multiple genres and weaves them together into a story unlike anything I’ve ever read. The book has a mix of science fiction, with an alien invasion that instigates a zombie apocalypse and indicates prophesies foretold in Revelations have begun. A church provides sanctuary from the external dangers, and some characters rely upon their faith and prayer to give them strength and keep them safe.
The story is set around Newport, Virginia, and is narrated by three main characters, Jennie, Hugh, and Brad, whose individual stories describe their different circumstances and the separate challenges each must face until their lives intersect when events bring them together at a local church. As it turns out, these three characters do have connections to one another creating minor complications that expand and enrich the main conflict.
The prologue of the story provides necessary exposition, sets the stage for the impending apocalypse, and foreshadows how unprepared many people are about the unimaginable reign of terror they will soon experience. When the story opens, the alien invasion has already begun, and 1/3 of the world population has been annihilated. Everyone seems to be anxiously waiting to see what will happen next.
Jennie is the protagonist of the book, a nineteen-year-old college student, now home with her family, and her attitude reveals her denial that life as she knows it will soon be over. Six weeks have passed since the first alien attack, and now the aliens are quietly, but strategically hovering over key geographical locations. Although we aren’t given specific details about what kind of attack occurred, so far the devastation hasn’t personally touched Jennie, and she hasn’t seen too much of a change in her own life.
Jennie does pout when her worried parents refuse to allow her to return to college and pick back up with her social life. I didn’t really like Jennie at first. She was whiny and self-absorbed, but my impression of her changed as she transforms into a mature, selfless, and brave heroine who is able to put her fears aside and accept her new role as surrogate parent to her young brother. She becomes more thoughtful and generous, often putting others’ needs before her own. One of the most heart-wrenching scenes for me is when she has to distance herself from her father and move on without her parents.
Hugh is also a main character, a teacher at the local high school and a good man whose observations and insight will be integral to events that occur in the latter part of the story. Even though he is significantly older than Jennie, he is drawn to her and wants to get to know her better. He sees and respects Jennie’s courage, inner-strength, and fierce protectiveness of her brother. Unfortunately, Jennie has formed a negative impression of Hugh that will prove difficult to change.
Brad is the third main character and the least likable. I’m really not sure why he’s such an important character and even necessary to the plot. He is shallow, selfish, antagonistic, manipulative, and for the most part he remains a static character who creates such minor complications that the story would have been just as effective without his presence. One significant event in the story allows readers to see a rare side of Brad that contrasts with his thoughts and behavior throughout the rest of the book. Perhaps his purpose is to show that no matter how dire the circumstances, some people refuse to appreciate how precious life is and have little desire to change.
The aspect I liked most in this story is how the author shows that when put in life-threatening situations fear can bring out both the best and worst in people. None of the significant characters in this book want to be heroes, but, when necessary, they show courage by pushing aside their fears to reach out to others in need.
I do hope there will be a sequel because there are too many unanswered questions and story threads left hanging, so the book ends without a clear resolution. The last chapters of the story seem rushed, and the epilogue comes too soon for my satisfaction. I’m still unclear about the significance of and motivation behind the alien invasion and their purpose for turning people into zombie-like creatures to spread an unidentified infection. I also want to understand how all these events relate back to the scripture from Revelations that is interspersed throughout the book. Furthermore at the very end, a new conflict arises when Hugh receives a cryptic message intended to set him on another journey for humankind’s survival.
Overall, the book is appropriate for young adults and will also appeal to adult readers as well. Creeden shows the horror of this apocalypse without being too graphic to scare readers. I plan to look for a sequel because this is a story that I’d like to see continue.
I received a copy of this book from the author for an honest review.
Pauline Creeden is a horse trainer from Virginia, but writing is her therapy. In her fiction, she creates worlds that are both familiar and strange, often pulling the veil between dimensions. She becomes the main character in each of her stories, and because she has ADD, she will get bored if she pretends to be one person for too long.
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18222654-sanctuary
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